A Letter from Principal Drummond

Dear Hill Community,

We want to thank all of our families for another week of hard work at home with our Dillos. It was wonderful seeing and hearing from many of you again at our Principal Coffees on Thursday. If you missed them, you can see a recording of one of the sessions available in the Dillo Details. Hopefully this lengthy communication below can help answer a lot of questions you may have leading into this new week.

On Friday, Dr. Cruz and Austin ISD made the decision to close schools indefinitely. With this announcement, we understand that online continuous learning will be the way we support our students for the coming weeks.

Beginning Monday, April 6th, Hill School will be closed but instructing. Teachers this week will begin providing continuous learning online for students using a number of creative methods. If they haven’t done so yet, teachers will be communicating where you can find their learning experiences, resources, and other items to support your students’ education prior to tomorrow. This includes our wonderful art, music, PE, and FLEX teachers who are ready to engage students as well throughout the week. Please know that if in doubt, all Hill teachers have updated their BLEND homepages to give parents a consistent place to go to find learning. Students can login at portal.austinisd.org and search “BLEND” to find all of their teacher pages. Parents that login can see all of their students’ teachers as well. Look for more information from our staff on what other resources you may need for learning this week. Thank you all for your patience as we learn and grow each week with this new educational structure. We are treating this like the first week of school and focused on reconnecting with students as our number one priority. Academically, our teachers will be reviewing prior learning to help ease the transition. Beginning April 13th, we will begin progressing ahead with our learning objectives that will be consistent across the school district. Expectations are that teachers will include one continuous learning experience per week for language arts, math, science, and social studies. Some teachers may choose to combine some subjects for more enriching lessons as well. From there, extensions and resources will be available to keep students engaged and learning. Teacher posted schedules are meant to help guide learning but not mandatory to follow as we know that every family has challenges right now at home. We thank all of our adults for doing what you are able to support student learning. There will not be an expectation that all if any work will be turned back in as that is not a capability all families have.

Many families have asked about work packets that can be physically picked up. Those will continue to be available on Wednesdays at all meal sites throughout the district. We also anticipate a school within our vertical team being a pick-up point for these soon as well. We will communicate this once we know the plan. Hill faculty will not be creating their own work packets, as staff are not allowed on campus right now due to concerns for spreading the virus. Please also know that the Austin ISD Learning at Home website will continue to be updated weekly for the duration of school closure as another excellent resource if students need more learning opportunities. The packets can be printed from here under each grade level tab.

We also want to make you aware of our Hill Campus Community BLEND page that can be found HERE. You will need to login to see this page as a student or parent. Here, you can find an updated master schedule for all teachers that show their office hours of availability each day. This time will be consistent where teachers can respond to emails, schedule meetings, and confer with students among other tasks. An updated Counselor Corner is available here as a resource to support students with SEL strategies as well. Lastly, we will have our virtual assembly videos posted their weekly as well to access for each morning. While we can’t hold our beloved tradition in person, we hope this can keep students connected to us in another small way!

At the school board meeting this week, we also expect a grading policy to be approved that will help guide our work for the rest of the spring. At this time, we do not anticipate grades being taken for the 4th 9 weeks. Instead, teachers will be able to provide feedback for students weekly to help guide them. This can be through a Zoom meetup, phone call, or other agreed upon platform with parents and guardians. It will look different class to class. Our staff know to work with parents to set up any of these interactions and to ensure parents are present for the duration. As always, safety is our number one concern right now as we navigate these new structures.

We know that many families are concerned about technology and may not have what is needed at home to practice continuous learning online. We anticipate that AISD will be sending out a survey to all grade 3-5 families on their tech needs, including devices, in the upcoming week. They are currently wrapping up distribution of thousands of devices to middle schoolers across the district. Our intermediate grades will be next. While we don’t have an exact timeline for distribution, we appreciate the hard work of our district tech department in meeting this monumental challenge. Please also know that planning is in the works for possible solutions to support grades Pre-K through 2nd as well with technology needs. We will keep everyone updated in our community as we learn more. Until we have all family needs met, we encourage those interested to pick-up the physical work on Wednesday at Burnet MS or Cook ES, those being the closest sites to us.

While we are unfortunately not allowed to be on campus, we are excited for construction on our new 10 studio addition and new fitness space to begin as scheduled at the end of April. We would like to invite all of our interested stakeholders to our Campus Architectural Team Community Meeting this Wednesday, April 8th, at 6:00 pm. This will be a Zoom virtual meeting with more information below in today’s Dillo Details. It will be exciting for everyone to see how our campus will be enhanced in the 2021-2022 school year!

Again, thank you for all of your positivity, support, and hard work to support our students during this very difficult time in our world. We appreciate your patience as our staff, like many of you, juggle working at home while also caring for family and educating their own small children using these same methods. It is not easy for anyone. This is not business as usual, but we will make this successful. We know this because the Hill community is strong and supportive! We hope everyone has a great week of learning, friends.

Principal Drummond

P.S. for those who wanted to see James on video but were denied by nap time Thursday, here is an updated photo of our Head Dillo Baby in his boss chair.